People & Power

One man’s take on the enduring message of Christmas season

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By Harold Acemah

Posted  Sunday, December 22  2013 at  02:00

In Summary

It is high time Ugandans stopped living in fear in their homes, workplaces and generally in their own country. “Fear not” is a powerful message of Christmas; a season of joy, love, hope and peace as forecast by prophet Isaiah in 700 BC.

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On Wednesday, December 25, Christians across the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, who according to the Scriptures was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, Judea, as foretold many centuries earlier by prophets Isaiah and Micah.

As the beautiful Christmas carol by N. Tate puts it: “While shepherds watched their flock by night; all seated on the ground; the angel of the LORD came down and glory shown around”. The second stanza says: “Fear not, said he for mighty dread had seized their troubled mind; glad tidings of great joy I bring, to you and all mankind”!

In the third stanza, the angel releases “breaking news” to the shepherds and the world: “To you in David’s town this day, is born of David’s line; a Saviour who is Christ the Lord and this shall be the sign”. The last stanza proclaims: “All glory be to God on high and to the earth be peace; good will henceforth from heaven to men (and women as well); begin and never cease”!

The Christmas story and message embodies two contradictory themes, joy and fear. It took an angel sent by God to allay the fears of the frightened shepherds. In modern parlance the angel told them; don’t worry, be happy! Great fear would seize King Herod, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and many others in due course.

I had the pleasure to visit and pray at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 1998; the birthplace of Jesus Christ is no longer green with pasture, but is a brown desert unsuitable for shepherds to keep their sheep by day or night.

The Christmas message is as relevant and applicable to contemporary Ugandans as it was to the shepherds of Judea in the first AD. Today, too many Ugandans sadly and regrettably live in fear, especially those who live in Kampala and surroundings. Even the rich and powerful live in constant fear, although they put on a brave face to give the impression that they are happy and have nothing to fear. My doctor tells me that too many Ugandans suffer from and die of stress and anxiety-related diseases, unlike in the good old days.

If the rich and powerful were not afraid, why would they hide in fortresses which are guarded 24 hours per day by mean-looking and trigger-happy security agents? Some have hundreds of soldiers assigned, at our expense, to protect them round the clock from the wananchi. Why should popular men fear their own supporters and admirers so much so that they must be protected from them all the time? It does not add up.

It is high time Ugandans stopped living in fear in their homes, workplaces and generally in their own country. “Fear not” is a powerful message of Christmas; a season of joy, love, hope and peace as forecast by prophet Isaiah in 700 BC. He wrote: “For to us a son is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” Isaiah 9:6 (NIV).

“Of the increase of his government and peace, there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD almighty will accomplish this” Isaiah 9:7 (NIV). The son was named Immanuel which means “God with us”.

I like the assurance the prophet gave, that the power of the new ruler will be based on justice and righteousness; not on injustice, deception and impunity which are commonplace in Africa today; not on AK 47 machine guns, not black mambas, not tear gas, not RPGs and not on Sukhoi or MIG fighter jets!

That is what Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Africa urgently need and deserve; leaders who rule on the basis of justice, righteousness and integrity; leaders who do not seek power to advance hidden agendas of self-aggrandizement and personal glory; leaders who have national vision and outlook; leaders who are incorruptible and do not condone corruption; leaders who are committed to establish real and lasting peace in Africa, and leaders who will build unity in our diversity and not deliberately seek to divide and rule.

One day it will come to pass because the LORD almighty has already determined to accomplish this.

“Fear not” is a timely message for all humankind, and that is why it is repeated over and over in the Holy Bible. We should not be afraid of fear-mongers and war-mongers who survive on lies, chaos, anarchy and confusion. The writing is already on the wall for them.

The Church of Christ should launch a “freedom from fear campaign” in 2014 to liberate wananchi from fear so that all Ugandans, including the political elite, can learn to live happily and peaceably as a community.

May the love and peace of God be with us all during this festive season of Christmas!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our esteemed readers and their loved ones!
Mr Acemah is a political scientist, consultant and a retired career diplomat. hacemah@gmail.com